Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Captain's Library THE AVENGERS "Drug Pedlar"

Despite only running one season (or "series" as the Brits call them), the original concept for The Avengers was popular enough to inspire this one-shot comic strip that combined illustrations with photos.
Note: May be NSFW due to racial stereotypes common to the era.
Neither the writer nor artist for this strip from World Distributors' hardcover TV Crimebusters Annual (1962) were identified.
The story has never been published in the US, which makes sense since the show didn't air in America until the first Mrs. Peel season in 1965.
Also in this hardcover book were strips and illustrated text stories for British shows Danger Man (Secret Agent in America), Dixon of Dock Green, Interpol Calling and The Pursuers along with American series airing in Britain Hawaiian Eye, Roaring 20's, 77 Sunset Strip, and Charlie Chan.
These "annuals" based on tv shows, movies, and literary & comic strip characters would be sold from autumn through Christmas, often being used as presents and stocking stuffers.
Many shows including Dr Who, Star Trek, the various Gerry Anderson series (Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Space: 1999, etc), and later series of The Avengers, had their own titles.
Popular characters like Thunderbirds' Lady Penelope and Dr Who's Daleks also had their own Annuals.
These books are very HTF and wildly-expensive in America, but if you're a collector of those show's merchandise, they are must-haves.
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Monday, February 23, 2015

THE AVENGERS: Before Steed & Peel...there was Steed and KEEL!

The original premise of the long-running tv series The Avengers in 1961 was quite different from what American audiences saw from 1965 onward:
In the pilot episode "Hot Snow", Dr. David Keel's fiancée/receptionist Peggy is murdered by a ruthless drug dealers after a consignment of heroin arrives at the doctor's office.
Contacted by government special agent John Steed who has been tracking the drug-dealing criminals, Keel agrees to help bring the murderers to justice.
They infiltrate both the gang and a rival mob, and avenge Peggy's death in the follow-up episode, "Brought to Book".
Keel decides to work with Steed against other criminals on a part-time basis while still practicing medicine.
The duo do so, in hard-boiled detective style.
Officially listed as written by Ray Rigby, the two-part opener was extensively-rewritten by script editor Brian Clemens, who would soon place his personal stamp on the series', defining the style that would make it a TV icon both in England and "across the pond" in America.
BTW, the producer/creator of the show was Sydney Newman, who would go on to co-create an even more iconic British fantasy series a couple of years later...Dr Who!
Starring up-and-coming star Ian Hendry as Dr Keel, the show was more in the vein of hard-edged "film noir" thrillers than typical genteel British mysteries...or even the later, light-hearted stories The Avengers became famous for.
Keel's reputation, medical knowledge, and relatively-easy access to people at various strata of society proved invaluable in fighting crime ranging from drug running to Communist mad scientists!
You'll note that Patrick Macnee's John Steed is the supporting character here.
He's a much harsher, more traditional, spy, not the elegant "toff" we're used to seeing, even using a gun and killing opponents!
While he wears a bowler and natty suits in some episodes, he's often clad in a traditional trenchcoat, and even "dresses down" when the situation calls for it, like going undercover.
Except for the first two episodes, which had numerous location shots on film as well as videotaped studio scenes, the series was shot and broadcast live from a studio which a huge back lot for street scenes.
Between the first and second seasons, there was a TV studio worker strike, during which Ian Hendry landed a couple of movie roles.
By the time the strike ended, Hendry was committed to film work and couldn't back out, so the second season scripts were rewritten to emphasize Steed as the lead with three new aides appearing in rotation, along with a lighter, more fantasy-oriented tone.
One of the aides, Honor Blackman's Mrs Cathy Gale, became a breakout star, setting the pattern of Steed and a female partner for the remainder of the series.
As to why you've probably never seen the Dr Keel episodes; master videotapes of most of the first-season episodes were either erased (to be reused for other shows), or lost, and only two full episodes, along with the first half of "Hot Snow", are known to exist!
Though the original TV episodes have been lost to the mists of time, the scripts remained, and now, Big Finish Audio, noted for their Dr Who, and Sarah Jane Smith, audio dramas, are now adapting the "lost episodes" into audio form...
While Macnee is not participating in these state-of-the-art recreations, the duo handling the roles, Anthony Howell and Julian Wadham, are quite good.
And for those who would like to see Hendry and Macnee as Keel and Steed, we have a very special treat that'll be revealed to you...tomorrow!
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...for info on many other video sleuths, gumshoes, spies, and cops!